Newey: Verstappen now “clearly one of the all-time F1 greats”
The Milton Keynes outfit has won the first 13 races of the 2023 season, and Verstappen recorded his ninth consecutive victory in his home race at Zandvoort last weekend.
Newey believes that as he heads towards his third title Verstappen has to be regarded among the best.
“Max is clearly one of the all-time greats and he’s at the top of his game,” he told Motorsport.com. “Since he won the championship in ’21 I think that took a lot of pressure off himself, and his driving has got a lot better for that.
“He’s totally in tune. The thing about Max, like all the real greats, is that you have the impression he almost drives the car on automatic, which leaves plenty of processing power to think about everything.”
Newey admitted that even for him, with a career that has included near-dominant years for the likes of Nigel Mansell at Williams and Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, the 2023 season is something special.
“For both the driver and the team to achieve that level of consistency and reliability is fantastic,” he said.
“Never in my career have I been associated with a team where we’ve managed to win the first 13 races. Previously, it’s been like the first six or something, but it’s nothing like this.
Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing, Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer, Red Bull Racing
Photo by: Red Bull Racing
“The team is obviously working very well together, it’s a tribute to everybody kind of really getting on doing their job.
“But the funny thing is I’ve been in this position before where you’re not consciously doing anything different, it’s just everything gels.”
Asked if Red Bull backing off on 2023 development might allow others to catch up in the latter part of the season, he said: “Possibly. I would imagine that most teams now are probably well into next year’s.
“So how much development other teams have got coming in between now and the end of the year? I don’t know. For us obviously we’re now tending to switch our focus to next year.”
Newey acknowledged that the team didn’t quite get it right with Verstappen’s tyre strategy in the Zandvoort rain, while Sergio Perez finished only fourth after an eventful race. Both drivers switched to full-wet tyres just before the red flag.
“Obviously, with 20-20 hindsight, the right thing to do was stop [for inters] on lap one,” he said. “But it wasn’t clear. We stopped Checo a bit late, last minute, so the tyres weren’t quite got ready, and Max the following lap, which was good enough. The guys who stayed out for an extra lap after that, they suffered.
“And then a little bit conservative maybe getting back into the dries, but we could afford to be because we had enough margin.
“At the end there we got on to inters, which was obvious, on the right lap. Then the move to extremes with Max we could do without losing position.
“With Checo, he’d obviously been off. And the problem is, we knew there was a reasonable chance of a red flag, but equally, if you stay out and there isn’t, they might bin it. So it’s one of those difficult ones.”
Perez survived a spin and contact with the Tecpro barrier and a brush with the wall on the pit entry. Fortunately, the team was able to attend to the Mexican’s car under red flag conditions before he resumed.
“There was a bit of damage to the beam wing which obviously we managed to repair under the red flag,” said Newey.
“If there hadn’t been a red flag, would it have made it without falling apart? I don’t know. Had there not been a red flag it was right on the edge of structural integrity.”